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National recovery plan for Arachnorchis woolcockiorum (syn. Caladenia woolcockiorum) (Woolcock's spider orchid)

Doug Bickerton
National Parks and Wildlife SA
In partnership with Threatened Plant Action Group, February 2003

Note: This publication has been superseded by the Recovery Plan for Twelve Threatened Orchids in the Lofty Block Region of South Australia 2010

Recovery Plan for Arachnorchis woolcockiorum cover page

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Part B: Planning Components

Recovery Objectives

Overall Recovery Objectives

To secure the status of A. woolcockiorum as Vulnerable in the next five years by increasing the total population size to 2500 mature individuals and / or by ensuring that the species remains stable in at least six separate locations.

Since the current distribution of A. woolcockiorum is considerably restricted, it is not deemed feasible to attempt to downgrade the conservation status from Vulnerable in the short term. However, the aim of this Recovery Plan is to ensure that known subpopulations are stabilized and increased in size and abundance if possible, and to make certain that an appropriate management regime is implemented at all locations.

Specific Recovery Objectives

  1. Minimize the loss of genetic variability across the species range.
  2. Maintain or increase the area of occupancy of the species over the next five years.
  3. Maintain or increase the abundance of the species over the next five years.
  4. Maintain or increase the extent of occurrence of the species over the next five years.

Primarily there is a need to minimize the risk of local extinction of smaller subpopulations and the associated loss of genetic material. Secondly the area of occupancy is restricted to 32ha and it must be maintained or increased to ensure the species does not become Endangered. Additionally the stability of A. woolcockiorum can be improved through enhancement of species abundance and attempts to find new subpopulations, thus increasing the currently restricted known extent of occurrence.

Performance Criteria

Actions

1.1.1. Collect and cryogenically store seed from all known subpopulations.

The Recovery Team will collect seed from all known sites within five years. It will be sent to Kings Park and Botanic Gardens WA, where it can remain viable in cryogenic storage.

2.1.1.Monitor sites for weed invasion, and if necessary implement weed control measures.

All A. woolcockiorum sites will be visited annually and assessed for weed invasion. Should weed numbers increase to a size deemed potentially detrimental to the spider orchid, community groups such as TPAG, NOSSA and Friends of MRNP will be encouraged to assist in weed control. NPWSA staff will also be consulted with regards to controlling weeds at the source.

2.1.2. Monitor all known sites for herbivory rate, and if necessary implement herbivore control measures.

All sites will be visited annually and assessed for grazing pressure. Also the primary cause of grazing pressure (e.g. kangaroos, rabbits or caterpillars) will be assessed. If necessary the options of fencing subpopulations, placing tree guards around individual plants or controlling invertebrates will be implemented. The Recovery Team and NPWSA staff will be responsible for these activities. NPWSA staff will also be consulted if it is necessary to control herbivores such as kangaroos or rabbits feeding at a nearby source such as The Linklands (see Figure 1).

3.1.1. Liaise with NPWSA management staff and track maintenance contractors.

It is important that track maintenance does not adversely affect A. woolcockiorum, because the known subpopulations are found close to fire tracks in relatively undisturbed vegetation. Planning and implementation of track maintenance should consider the frequency and method of vegetation clearance near tracks, disposal of cleared vegetation and use of earthmoving equipment. A track maintenance policy will be developed in collaboration with NPWSA staff and contractors.

3.1.2.Liaise with local fire prevention managers and crews.

The tracks that pass by the A. woolcockiorum sites are important access tracks for fire fighting, and two of the A. woolcockiorum subpopulations are in the vicinity of water refill facilities (see Appendix 1 – Sugar gum Camp and Woods Hut No. 8). It is important that the movements of fire trucks, especially during the active season of the spider orchid, have a minimal effect on the plants where possible, and likewise that the use of earthmoving equipment to create firebreaks is not detrimental to subpopulations. The Recovery Team and NPWSA management will hold discussions with Country Fire Service (CFS) crews and, alerting them to the concerns for biodiversity, providing information on the locality of sites and working with them to devise suitable fire prevention protocols for critical areas. If necessary, training sessions will also be held for operational staff.

3.2.1.Herbivore control at Blue Gum Flat and Eaglehawk Dam Track.

Individual plants found in the outlying subpopulations will be protected from herbivores by tree guards, wire netting or use of deterrents for invertebrates. The Recovery Team will be responsible for initiation of controls and annual monitoring of the effectiveness of the methods used, and NPWSA and / or Friends of MRNP will be asked to assist with follow-up maintenance of guards or netting.

3.2.2.   Enhance recruitment at Blue Gum Flat and Eaglehawk Dam Track.

A translocation feasibility study (Bickerton, 2001[a]) has recently been conducted for A. woolcockiorum and it was deemed not a necessary option for the species at this stage. Instead, in-situ management alternatives will be explored. A proportion of flowering plants in the smaller subpopulations will be hand-pollinated in order to increase seed set. The proportion of flowers to be hand-pollinated will be determined by guidelines set by the Recovery Team (Bickerton, 2001[b]). Additionally, recruitment will be enhanced by collecting mature seed in October / November and re-dispersing it in late autumn. It is expected that the Recovery Team will carry out such tasks with little or no assistance from community groups, because the hand pollination of orchids requires expertise, and although members of NOSSA would be capable of such work, the difficulty of access and distance to be traveled would be an unreasonable expectation for volunteers.

3.3.1.See 2.1.1.

3.3.2.See 2.1.2.

4.1.1. Conduct an annual search for additional subpopulations in areas of critical habitat.

Members of NOSSA and Friends of MRNP will be asked to assist in annual searches of previously unexplored critical and potential habitat, particularly outside MRNP.

Table 2 – The relationship between the specific objectives, performance criteria and actions recommended for the recovery of A. woolcockiorum
Specific objective Performance criterion Action
1. Minimize the loss of genetic variability across the species range. 1.1. Seed from all known subpopulations greater than one plant is stored within 5 years. 1.1.1. Collect and cryogenically store seed from all known subpopulations.
2. Maintain or increase the area of occupancy of the species over the next 5 years. 2.1. The current area of occupancy is maintained or increased over the next 5 years. 2.1.1. Monitor sites for weed invasion, and if necessary implement weed control.
2.1.2. Monitor sites for herbivory rate, and if necessary implement herbivore control.
3. Maintain or increase the abundance of the species over the next 5 years. 3.1. Track maintenance policies and fire prevention protocols suitable for the species are developed and implemented within 5 years. 3.1.1. Liaise with NPWSA management staff and track maintenance contractors.
3.1.2. Liaise with local fire prevention managers and crews.
3.2. Subpopulations with fewer than 5 mature plants are protected from extrinsic threats within 1 year and all subpopulations contain at least as many mature plants after 5 years. 3.2.1. Herbivore control at Blue Gum Flat and Eaglehawk Dam Track through use of tree guards, netting and / or invertebrate deterrents.
3.2.2. Enhance recruitment at Blue Gum Flat and Eaglehawk Dam Track by hand pollinating.
3.3. See 2.1. 3.3.1. See 2.1.1.
3.3.2. See 2.1.2.
4. Maintain or increase the extent of occurrence of the species over the next 5 years. 4.1. All areas of critical habitat in the Southern Flinders and Northern Lofty Ranges are searched within 5 years. 4.1.1. Conduct an annual search for additional subpopulations in areas of critical habitat.

Affected Interests

Table 1:Interests affected by the Recovery Plan‘s recommended actions; also the manner in which these interests have been or will be addressed. P.O. – Project Officer; R.T. – Recovery Team
Action Interest(s) affected Manner of address
1.1.1. Collect and store seed WA Botanic Gardens Liaison with P.O.
2.1.1. Monitor for weed invasion and if necessary implement weed control NPWSA Staff   R.T. member
2.1.2. Monitor for herbivory rate and if necessary implement herbivore control NPWSA Staff   R.T. member
3.1.1. Devise track maintenance policy NPWSA Staff R.T. member
Track maintenance contractors Liaison with P.O. & NPWSA Staff
3.1.2. Devise fire prevention procedures NPWSA Staff R.T. member
CFS Management Liaison with P.O. & NPWSA Staff
3.2.1. Herbivore control at Blue Gum Flat and Eaglehawk Dam Track NPWSA Staff   R.T. member
3.2.2. Hand-pollinating at Blue Gum Flat and Eaglehawk Dam Track -   P.O.
4.1.1. Search for new subpopulations NPWSA R.T. member
Forestry SA Liaison with P.O.